#MeToo: MJ Akbar has been accused of sex harassment by nearly a dozen women
New Delhi: Union Minister MJ Akbar on Sunday said he was exploring legal action against "wild and baseless allegations", amid calls for his resignation over a dozen women accusing him of sexual harassment in a wave of #MeToo stories on social media. "Accusation without evidence has become a viral fever among some sections," said Mr Akbar, 67, hours after he arrived from a tour of Nigeria. There would be a statement later, was all the former editor said, asked by the media whether he would resign over the allegations. But his decision was clear as sources told NDTV that the government has "nothing to do with the accusations" against him and his stepping down may "set a bad precedent".
Here are the 10 latest developments in this story:
- "Why has this storm risen a few months before a general election? Is there an agenda? You be the judge," MJ Akbar said in his statement, alleging that all his accusers had a motive - the 2019 national election.
- The veteran journalist-turned-politician said, "Lies do not have legs, but they do contain poison, which can be whipped into a frenzy." The reason why no one went to the authorities for so long, he said, was "because I had done nothing".
- MJ Akbar, who headed prominent newspapers like The Telegraph and the Asian Age, has been accused of harassing younger women, especially newcomers. Some alleged that he would call women to his hotel room for job interviews. Others said he behaved inappropriately behind closed doors of his office.
- The accusations started pouring in after journalist Priya Ramani tweeted on October 8 that MJ Akbar was the man she had referred to in an incident she shared in a magazine article a year ago, when the Harvey Weinstein scandal in the US fuelled the #MeToo movement.
- After Ms Ramani named him, more women posted their stories against MJ Akbar - Prerna Singh Bindra, Ghazala Wahab, Shutapa Paul, Anju Bharti, Suparna Sharma, Shuma Raha, Malini Bhupta, Kanika Gahlout, Kadambari M Wade, Majlie de Puy Kamp and Ruth David.
- "Priya Ramani began this campaign a year ago with a magazine article. She did not, however, name me as she knew it was an incorrect story. Asked recently why she had not named me, she replied, in a Tweet: "Never named him because he didn't 'do' anything"... If I didn't do anything, where and what is the story?" Mr Akbar said.
- "Shutapa Paul states, "The man never laid a hand on me." Shuma Raha says, "I must clarify, however, that he didn't actually 'do' anything". One woman, Anju Bharti, went to the absurd extent of claiming I was partying in a swimming pool. I do not know how to swim," his statement read.
- The Congress, CPM and the All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen had demanded Mr Akbar's sacking on moral grounds. He should either clarify or quit, said the Congress.
- MJ Akbar's boss, foreign minister Sushma Swaraj, did not commentand others Maneka Gandhi and Smriti Irani came out strongly in support of the #MeToo campaign. Maneka Gandhi, the Minister for Women and Child Development, asked for an investigation.
- India caught up with the #MeToo movement days after former actor Tanushree Dutta, who accused veteran actor Nana Patekar of harassing her on the sets of a film 10 years ago. Scores of women started posting their experiences on a Twitter thread, naming and shaming established media men, writers and people from the entertainment industry.
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